Bacon and eggs salad

Woah! New jobs sure do take up a lot of time and energy. Over the past few weeks, I have been lucky to make it past 9:30 pm before snoring ensues on the couch. Clearly, this is not how I like to live my life and I'm happy to say after week three at said sweet new job, I am back to normal energy levels and ready to blog.

When life gets busy, I tend to stick to some basic recipes. I am thrilled if I achieve a nice bruschetta or a tasty salad for supper. When I barely have time to wolf down a bowl of cereal in the morning, my meal planning for dinners has definitely gone to pot. Here is an easy week-night supper salad, and truth be told, has more to do with bacon and eggs than it does a healthy salad.

Salad Lyonnaise, although famous and rather popular, only recently made it into my week-night salad line up. After dining with our friends at Le Bouchon here in Chicago, I decided this was a salad I could easily serve my husband without him asking "what's next?"

Make sure the bacon you're buying is the very best, and thick! Get a slab of bacon if you can and dice it yourself or get some thick un-smoked slices from the butcher.

I used some day-old french baguette to make the croutons, but use ciabatta if you have it around. The secret to this salad is the hot, vinegary dressing made with shallots. Okay, there is a second secret: any salad with a poached egg quivering on top ready to ooze its soft center into the warm dressing is heaven on earth.

Salad Lyonnaise
Adapted from Gourmet Magazine
Serves 2

1 large bunch of frisee salad leaves
4 thick slices of un-smoked bacon, cubed
1/2 french baguette, cubed
1 shallot, finely chopped
2 free-range eggs- make sure they are fresh!
3 tbs red wine vinegar
1 tsp rice wine vinegar (for the poached eggs)
1 tsp dijon mustard
salt and pepper

Firstly, make your croutons by grilling your cubed bread on a grill pan over medium heat until crisp and hot. Remove from the heat and set aside, but leave them on the pan so they are still warm when serving. You can bake these in the oven if you prefer, but the grill pan is easier for me.

While the croutons are cooking, get a shallow pan of water boiling on the stove top for the eggs.
Also pull out a slotted spoon for poaching once the water is boiled. Have ready the rice wine vinegar.

Fry your cubed bacon until crisp and golden (in a dry pan- they have enough fat that will render as you cook) and remove with a slotted spoon onto kitchen paper to drain away excess grease. Your pan will still have your bacon drippings to which you will add the chopped shallots and fry gently until tender over medium heat for about 1 minute. Add the red wine vinegar and bring to a boil, then take it off the heat.

If you're like me, you will need to pay full attention to the poaching of eggs. I prefer to have everything ready to go before I begin poaching so up to this point, the salad is ready to construct once the eggs are perfect. I have poached eggs many ways, but I think that Elise Bauer of Simply Recipes does it best: follow her instructions to poach an egg and you can't go wrong.

Prepare your salad plates with a big pile of the frisee salad leaves. Sprinkle over the bacon and croutons and season to taste. Place your poached egg on top of the leaves and drizzle with the hot dressing. Dig in!!


Artichoke tree

There is nothing like a week-long stay in a hotel to make me crave a home cooked meal. It must include some vegetables, something I'm sure I didn't get enough of this week, and I've decided to tackle the artichoke. I must confess that I have never cooked an artichoke before. I use canned artichokes regularly, but I have found them daunting in the past. I've passed by them in markets for many springs now and have never attempted them.

I do remember my Mother producing a splendid "artichoke tree" during a Thanksgiving celebration with a lovely lemon-butter dipping sauce. I'm don't remember exactly how the tree came to be, but let's just say there was a tower of artichokes and they were steamed to perfection. I recall pulling each succulent leaf from the fibrous core and scraping it clean between my teeth.

For my first attempt, I did decide to steam them, but instead of the lemon butter, I baked them with a mixture of bread crumbs, parmesan, garlic, lemon zest, butter and parsley.

They were just as juicy and delicious as I remember them. Try them as a nice starter to a roast dinner. They go particularly nice with pork for some reason. A crisp white wine is also a perfect partner.

Stuffed Artichokes
Makes 4 artichokes

4 artichokes
1 cup of dried bread crumbs
1/2 cup freshly grated parmesan
1 tsp lemon zest
2 garlic cloves, crushed and finely chopped
2 tbsp finely chopped parsley
4 tbsp butter, at room temperature

Firstly, prepare the artichokes. Using kitchen shears, cut 1 inch off the top of each artichoke and snip off the sharp tips of the leaves. Wash them and remove any loose outer leaves. Brush the cut edges of the leaves with a little lemon juice.

Put enough lightly salted water in a large sauce pan to cover the bottom, and place a steamer inside. Bring the water to a boil and steam the artichokes for about 20 - 30 minutes until tender. PLEASE watch your pan and continue to top up the boiling water from a hot kettle if possible. I seriously almost burn my pan out because of regular distractions.

Meanwhile, preheat your oven to 350F.

Combine the bread crumbs, butter, lemon zest, garlic, parsley and parmesan. Season with a little salt and pepper.

When the artichokes are steamed and tender, wrap each of them in some aluminum foil and top them with the bread crumb mixture before sealing shut.

Bake for 10 minutes closed and open the foil for another 5 until the bread crumbs are golden brown. Squeeze a little lemon juice over them before serving.

Serve immediately and let your guests pick each leaf out, scraping off all of the stuffing along with the tender leaves.